“If you want to be the president of our nation, all you have to do is go to school”
The title of this blog is my new favourite song. It’s the song the children of Rofenka sang to us when we visited their school.
We arrived at the school on the second morning of our community visit expecting to teach- I was down to teach maths and was grateful that it was primary level as I’m sure my GCSE maths is a bit rusty. I was thankfully let off the hook as I didn’t have to teach directly but be the assistant teacher. If anything this was a distraction for grade 3 from their fractions as staring at the visitor was far more interesting than learning about the lowest common multiple.
The fact that at the end of the lesson I gave each child a painted chicken from the UK meant the children weren’t going back to their work anytime soon so the teacher decided for them to sing songs for myself and the other “gappers”. After grade 3 were done singing the class on the other side of the wall that divided the room (grade 4) joined in with the singing and it wasn’t long before every child in the school was out of the classroom as we attempted to leave.
I was first back to the vehicle and the children that were with me tried to repeat my sentence of “and now we go in the car”. When we drove off the children ran off after us and later in the day when we meet up with the grade 3 teacher he informed us that the children were so excited by our visit that most of the day had been taken up by a football gala as none of the children wanted to go back to class.
As well as teaching during our visit to the community we were able to have a go at fishing, harvesting rice, playing a community football game, learning traditional dancing, meeting the chief and witnessing a local court session.
One of the things that struck me the most about the living arrangements in the village was the role of women. As the majority of the village was Muslim, most of the men had at least two wives and when on our second night of talking to the women about this, their view was that they didn’t like it. Every husband had a clear favourite wife and none of the wives were treated fairly. The women walk to Makeni town every day and sell whatever they can in order to be able to buy food for their family, they will then cook the food and give the best portion to their husband’s and then the rest for their children, they themselves will only eat the scraps that are left. However the women informed us on our second evening in the community that they have seen much improvement to woman’s rights in their lifetime thanks to NGOs such as CAFOD who promote gender equality.
While at the moment the situation is still unbalanced at least it is improving and that gives me hope for the future. After talking to the woman I offered to pray for the woman in the community and they were so grateful for this small act of compassion. It showed me a lot about the world we live in.
While I sometimes struggle in the UK with being put down for being a woman it is nothing compared to what these woman go through every day and it made me grateful for the hard work that women (and men) in generations before me have done in order to improve gender equality in the UK and across the world.
Long may it continue!
Julia is clearly seeing a different world but is also seeing that changes for the better can and are being made. In 20, or 30 years, the children she met will be the leaders of their communities and, if they keep going to school, perhaps the President!
Julia and our other Gapper, Kat in El Salvador, are having this chance to see the world throgh CAFOD’s “Step into the Gap” programme. Applications are now open for 2014/15 at http://www.cafod.org.uk/Education/CAFOD-Gap-year
More from Julia next week.